You have your home pretty well covered with a carbine by your bed. You carry a concealed carry permit and a pistol wherever you go. But now you are considering your vehicle. Should you carry a firearm in your vehicle? If you do, how do you think you will most likely use it? What firearm is best? Do you often have passengers? Are they shooters?
There is a lot of talk about vehicle defense firearms. From reading articles, blogs, and forums, I have concluded that everyone has opinions, but few have really thought it out. To choose a vehicle defense weapon, first break down the possible requirements and tactics involving vehicles.
First, there are several ways a firearm may need to be used involving a vehicle:
1. Shooting from the vehicle at threats outside of the vehicle. Generally we would consider this to happen while the vehicle was in motion, just stopped, or about to move, since in most cases you would want to be outside of a stationary vehicle.
2. Shooting a threat that is inside the vehicle. This could include carjacking or kidnapping situations.
3. Shooting threats on the ground after leaving the vehicle to travel on foot.
There are a number of scenarios in which each of these uses could be necessary, but not everyone will face the same situations. Someone living in a large city may need to think about civil unrest, while someone in a rural area may be more likely to deal with a problem bear.
When we consider shooting threats from the vehicle, these scenarios will normally be limited to situations such as civil unrest, where a violent mob may be attempting to stop a vehicle, may be shooting at the vehicle, or throwing objects like rocks or bricks or incendiary devices at the vehicle. The second likely scenario would be when the vehicle’s occupants are surprised by an attacker who approached a parked or stopped vehicle. In this scenario, there would usually be no time to retrieve a firearm other than a pistol worn in a holster.
It is more likely that a person would need to leave a vehicle. This might be because of mechanical or fuel issues, because roads are impassable, to move from a vehicle to a structure, or because there is a need to move without drawing attention.
Finally, threats inside the vehicle are most likely to involve carjackings, kidnappings, an attack by a passenger, such as a hitchhiker, or domestic abuse situations. This means that someone has found an opportunity to enter the vehicle, or someone already riding in the vehicle has been revealed to be a threat.
Reaction to the threat depends on the position of the shooter in the vehicle.
From the driver’s seat:
Your primary function is to drive. You may have to shoot. If you do shoot, you will be engaging targets outside of your vehicle or possibly within the vehicle. If a situation can be resolved by driving instead of shooting, that is your focus and job. You can use the vehicle for egress, or you can use it as a weapon, or you can use it to move to a more strategic position if retreat is impossible.
From your position you need a weapon that can be carried on the body so it can be retrieved without interfering with your primary need to drive. It needs to be able to be operated and aimed primarily with one hand. It also needs to be maneuverable from your position to target threats outside the drivers window, from in front of the vehicle to around the seven to eight o’clock position, as well as across the vehicle for threats in the 3 o’clock position, and to cover possible threats within the vehicle itself, in case you have a threat that enters the vehicle. There is only one weapon that fits this role, and it is a traditional pistol.
An AR pistol, SBR, SMG, or carbine is a weapon that as a driver, you will retrieve and use only when you are no longer a driver, either because you are leaving the vehicle or because the vehicle can no longer be driven for any reason. In most cases, it will be best to retrieve the long gun and exit the vehicle, instead of trying to fight from inside a stationary vehicle.
From the passenger’s seat:
The passengers are gunners. From the front passenger seat, threats directly in front of the vehicle to three o’clock can easily be engaged using a carbine. For the passenger, a carbine is the weapon of choice.
Back seat passengers:
Back seat passengers are also best served with a carbine, and have the flexibility of taking backward-facing positions as well as forward-facing. If the vehicle has a sunroof, it can serve as a firing port for any passenger (think turret), though it raises the shooter higher.
For threats within the vehicle, in almost every case a traditional pistol will be more maneuverable. For threats outside the vehicle when the shooters are mounted, or outside the vehicle when the shooters are dismounted, and maneuverability inside the vehicle is not a great concern – a 14.5″ or 16″ barrel will be appropriately short, and may help with stabilization when firing from a moving vehicle. The exception is for the driver, whose ability to drive should not be impaired.
Other considerations are how and where you will be storing it in the vehicle – an 8″.300 BLK pistol might fit where you want it when a 14.5″ barreled carbine might not.
I am not telling you what to get or what to avoid, but simpler is better, and there is lots of talk about maneuverability within a vehicle, etc. without anyone really considering how a weapon is used with a vehicle.
This is an entire skill set, and you also need to consider training and definitely practice from your vehicle. Most who are teaching and practicing this stuff would benefit from better training themselves. There are specific techniques for each position that should be learned.
Most states have specific laws concerning how firearms may be carried in vehicles. These laws can affect firearm choice. We will assume that in all cases where legal, the driver will have a loaded pistol carried on the body.
Some states have laws that prohibit the carry of a loaded rifle in a vehicle. In this case, a firearm such as an AR-15 pistol or vz.58 pistol is a viable option, is compact, and still very effective. Another good alternative is a KPOS Pathfinder. If the state does not allow the carry of ammunition in proximity to an unloaded rifle, then the above will be the best options. If the laws allow for a rifle to be carried with ammo in close proximity, then an AR-15 carbine with a magazine carried in an MTH magazine carrier is a good option as well. The magazine stays with the rifle, and loading is instant.
In other states, all firearms must be carried in locked cases, sometimes separate from the passenger compartment, unless it is a pistol and the owner carries a concealed carry permit. In these cases, an AR pistol of a KPOS pathfinder may again be the best option, depending where carry of the pistol is allowed in the vehicle.
A registered short-barreled rifle is an excellent choice for vehicle defense for several reasons. It provides better concealment and easier storage in the vehicle, is more compact for maneuver within the vehicle during retrieval or clearing malfunctions, or changing positions within the vehicle. Owners of legal SBRs must check local laws carefully, as some states severely restrict the self-defense carry or use of certain NFA firearms.
Keep in mind that many locations prohibit shooting from a vehicle. Mostly, these laws were intended to prevent people from hunting from their vehicles on public roads, or from using vehicles to chase down game. I am not giving legal advice, so each individual will need to decide whether a particular situation warrants the violation of such a law in order to defend lives.
Another consideration is that there will always be a public perception that the occupants of a vehicle are in a position of strength, and that unequal force is akin to murder. Is it justified for a driver to drive through a violent crowd, striking and possibly injuring people in order to protect the innocent occupants of the vehicle from rock and club-wielding rioters? In recent years there have been a number of people in the Middle East who have been killed inside their vehicles by rock-throwing rioters. On the other hand, protesters simply slapping at a car with their hands may not be a great enough threat to justify causing injury to anyone, and the occupants of a vehicle may need to just subject themselves to the inconvenience of a delay and enduring some insults.
Before reacting to a situation, a number of questions must be considered:
Can I safely drive away from the situation? This is generally the best solution. Even if you are being followed, harassed or threatened by another vehicle, you may be able to move to a safer location.
Does the situation warrant the use of deadly force? Do the antagonists show the intention and have the means to cause serious bodily harm to you or those within your protection? Are they within the proximity to do so?
Can I use the vehicle to resolve the situation? A vehicle can make a very good weapon, and may be faster and more effective to use than a firearm.
Can I use the vehicle to move to a better position or to gain time? The vehicle can be used to gain time while preparing to fight, or to move to a position that is more defensible or provides a better dismounted escape route.
Let’s look at a couple of scenarios.
You accidentally cut off another driver, who takes the affront personally. He follows you to the next stop light where he exits his vehicle and starts smashing your tail lights with a tire iron. In this case, he has the means to cause injury or death, and is clearly in the wrong. Should you back up and smash him between the vehicles? Should you exit the vehicle and shoot him? Should you simply drive away?
Obviously, in this case you should drive away. You vehicle is not worth a fight, and definitely not worth killing over. While he is armed and in close proximity, he has clearly shown that his intent is to cause damage to your vehicle.
Let’s say that in the same situation, you stop at a stop light and are blocked from moving by other vehicles. The irate driver stops smashing tail lights and moves to the driver’s window, yelling that he will kill you. He smashes out the widow with the tire iron. Your children are screaming in their car seats. . . .
In this case, you cannot use the vehicle to flee the situation. You cannot exit the vehicle and flee on foot, because you cannot leave your children. The aggressor has proven to have the intent and the means to kill you, and is close enough to do it with his next swing. Now you are forced to use the threat of deadly force to try to resolve the situation.
What about a situation of civil unrest?
You unknowingly drive into the middle of a riot, and find your escape blocked by crowds of angry or desperate people. They yell at you, slap your car, and pull at the door handles. Are your lives in danger at this point?
With the lack of any other information, you would have to consider yourself in an inconvenient and scary situation, but that is all.
Now the crowd, which is unarmed as far as you can see, begins to press closer and beat on the car with fists. Someone yells, “Pull them out!” Someone else says, “Get them! Break the windows!” Suddenly, the car is rocking as a number of people attempt to roll the car over.
Now you must reconsider the threat. A quick look at past riots will show many examples of people who were removed from their vehicles and killed or badly injured by a crowd, even an unarmed crowd. Badly outnumbered, you need to decide if deadly force is justified in this situation. If so, you need to use your vehicle to extricate yourself while you still can.
Vehicle defense requires a multi-pronged approach. More is required than just surfing some forums and buying a cool gun to carry in your car.
• Train to fight from and around your vehicle. Learn the correct techniques.
• Consider your individual needs. How does your location determine what types of scenarios you will most likely face?
• Research your local and state laws. Are you restricted in what and how you can carry in a vehicle?
• Choose a weapon or weapons that fit your needs and your local laws. In one part of the county, a KPOS Pathfinder might be the best choice, while somewhere else a .30-30 behind the seat may be appropriate.
• Don’t disregard your pistol. Carry a pistol on your body when driving if you can legally do so. It will usually be the fastest weapon to place into action.
• Plan for likely scenarios. How would you handle being followed or harassed? What routes would you take to move to a safer location? Can you avoid driving through or stopping in more dangerous areas? Can you train your frequent passengers?
• Learn to recognize when deadly force is justified and where it is not.
• Drive and act in a way to avoid notice or confrontation. If a confrontation happens, plan to de-escalate the situation. Apologizing for another driver’s mistake doesn’t hurt you, and goes a long way toward defusing aggression.